Home 5 News 5 Cornelia Sorabji: Who was the trailblazing woman who became India's first female lawyer?

Cornelia Sorabji: Who was the trailblazing woman who became India's first female lawyer?

Cornelia Sorabji was a trailblazing figure who notched several firsts – the first woman to graduate from Bombay University, the first Indian woman to read law at Oxford, and the first woman to become an advocate in India.

A new Google Doodle celebrates her, on what would be her 151st birthday, for breaking the glass ceiling for female law practitioners in India.

Ms Sorabji was born in 1886 and attended Bombay University in the 1880s, becoming its first female graduate. After a period in work, in 1892 she was given permission to take Oxford’s law exams.

However, she was not awarded a degree simply because she was a woman – a tradition that did not change until decades later. She returned to India in 1894.

She eventually landed a job as a legal adviser for the Indian government, but she was not admitted to the Allahabad high court until 1923, when the ban on female lawyers was lifted.

During her career she represented hundreds of purdahnashins – women who are forbidden by custom from talking to men outside their family.

These isolated women struggled to defend their interests in court, including their rights to inheritances, because all lawyers were men.

Google’s doodle was created by Jasjyot Singh Hans and depicts Ms Sorabji in front of the high court to which she was eventually admitted.

It was designed to mark her “persistence in the face of great adversity”, Google said.


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